January 6, 2023
Vision Zero Appears to Be Reducing NYC Pedestrian Accidents
By Jonathan Damashek
Fatal pedestrian accidents are a tragic nationwide problem, particularly in New York City. NYC ranked the highest among U.S. cities, with 1,260 pedestrian deaths between 2011 and 2020.
Vision Zero in NYC to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents
In response to this deadly trend in pedestrian collisions, which continued in 2021 and 2022, NYC launched Vision Zero, an ambitious DOT safety plan to eliminate all deaths from traffic crashes regardless of whether on foot, bicycle or inside a motor vehicle.
Some of the initiatives contained within Vision Zero were:
- Add pedestrian crossing time to intersections by adjusting traffic lights
- Launch speed reducer programs that have speed humps and speed cushions
- Track Vision Zero violations throughout the city
- Improve officer visibility in priority areas where pedestrian accidents often occur
- Conduct a comprehensive study of senior pedestrian injuries
- Improve the safety of pedestrians regarding commercial waste fleets.
Fixing NYC’s Deadly Intersection Problem
Vision Zero and the DOT also committed to drastically improving pedestrian safety at intersections, which account for more than 50% of pedestrian deaths and 70% of all injuries.
To that end, The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) began design improvements to over 1,000 intersections to make them safer for pedestrians. This included improving traffic signals, crosswalks, and other pedestrian visibility measures. Additionally, the NYPD enacted stricter enforcement of laws against people who fail to recognize pedestrians’ right of way in crosswalks.
The improvements to NYC intersection designs include:
- More pedestrian traffic signals
- More time at traffic signals allowing pedestrians to cross
- Improved signage in intersections
- The addition of speed humps and speed cushions
- Reduced speed limits in intersections
- Increased enforcement of pedestrian right of way in crosswalks
- More visibility of crosswalks
- Raised crosswalks that are on the same level as the sidewalks
- Physical upgrades to bike lanes to reduce bicycle vs. pedestrian accidents
These and other traffic safety improvements will reportedly cost the city approximately $904 million and be made over the next five years.
It’s 2022. Has Vision Zero Worked?
With the first quarter numbers of 2022 still showing an increase in pedestrian fatalities, the picture looked bleak for Vision Zero’s success. However, in the later part of the year, New York City defied the national average and reported the first decline in pedestrian fatalities since 2019. This represents an 8.8% drop in pedestrian deaths – a significant improvement in overall public safety.
The DOT even exceeded its intersection goal and expanded to improve 1,400 intersections, in addition to other projects aimed at the city’s streets and dedicating more space for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders. DOT attributed much of its success to initiatives laid out in Vision Zero, including raised sidewalks, signal upgrades, redesigns, and the continued focus on reducing pedestrian deaths.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently touted these achievements, “While traffic deaths are on the rise across the country, New York City is turning the tide and is moving in the opposite direction by taking action to protect pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and all road users.”
We Can Do More to Prevent Pedestrian Accidents.
New York is making strides in the right direction when it comes to reducing preventable pedestrian deaths, and there is a lot other cities can learn from the city’s effort. Still, any loss of life for someone simply walking, running, or biking down a New York street is unacceptable.
Despite NYC’s 8.8% decline in pedestrian deaths, there were still 114 pedestrian fatalities last year and 104 through the end of November 2022.
How to Stay Safe as a Pedestrian in NYC
While NYC works to improve safety for pedestrians, here are some actions that people who walk in the city can take.
- Use sidewalks – Sidewalks are the safest place to walk. You should walk as far left as possible when they are unavailable, facing oncoming road traffic.
- Make sure you are visible – Wear light colors and reflective material when you walk in NYC, especially if you are on foot at night. If you are in a dark area, carry a flashlight.
- Remain alert – Keep an eye out for cars and bikes around you. Don’t get distracted by your cell phone, and avoid wearing headphones or earbuds while you walk along NYC streets.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs – In many pedestrian accidents, pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers have alcohol in their systems. Don’t walk along streets if you are inebriated.
- Use crosswalks and traffic lights – When crossing streets, ensure you are in a crosswalk and only cross when the traffic signal indicates you have the right of way. If these things aren’t available, cross at a corner where the traffic light is green.
- Look all ways – Maintain a lookout for cars on all sides of you. You should look left, right, and behind you, as a car may come from behind and turn in front of you.
- Watch out for parked vehicles – You might not see immediate danger when a vehicle is parked; however, drivers have a limited view when backing out of parking spots, which can cause a collision.
Legal Options for Injured Pedestrians
If you are involved in a pedestrian accident, it’s important to remember that you have options. The at-fault person should be held responsible for the damages that they caused.
Pedestrian vs. Car Accidents
If a motor vehicle hits you while you are walking in NYC, their car insurance company will be liable for your damages. You can file a car accident claim and submit proof of your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses. However, insurance companies are notorious for delaying and denying claims, even when those claims are valid. You should reach out to a lawyer who can ensure your rights are protected.
Pedestrian vs. Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle riders often fail to look for pedestrians and may cause an accident. When a bike rider is responsible for your injuries, it can be hard to determine how to get compensation. You may have to file a personal injury lawsuit against them directly. When you consult with a personal injury lawyer, you can learn more about your options after a bike vs. pedestrian accident.
HKD Fights for New York’s Injured Pedestrians
NYC and cities throughout the United States have recognized pedestrians’ risks. And while safety plans like Vison Zero are helpful, a driver’s recklessness can still put you or a loved one in harm’s way.
If you or a family member are injured or tragically killed in a pedestrian accident, our experienced and dedicated New York personal injury lawyers can help. Let us explain your legal options and how to get justice.